It’s that time of year when I look back and look forward. I’ve been writing these since 2011 and it’s always rewarding to look back at what I was thinking in the past and how it’s changed over the years.
What Stuck (and What Didn’t)
As I reviewed the past, here’s what I stuck with:
- In 2018, I was thinking a lot about the ideas of Essentialism and paring my efforts down to a single focus. I continued with this in 2019 and love the feeling of doing fewer things, but doing them better.
- We’re still renting movies the old fashioned way thanks to Movie Madness! I actually love it. We’ve done some deep dives that would have been impossible with streaming services.
- Memory – this incredible article stuck with me and I’ve been using the tool Anki to help me remember all kinds of things: favorite passages from books, the names of famous paintings, fun facts, and Japanese vocabulary.
But I failed to stay off of Twitter. The NBA Playoffs brought me back and there’s too much fun discussion on there! I am, however, still successfully off of everything else. I think.
Reading my own Annual Reports, it’s fun to watch my values change over time. In the past, I was quite excited about getting to traveling and speak all around the country. I graphed my miles traveled, counted up each event, and marked which states I’d been to. But then that morphed into a desire to cut back and eventually move away from speaking.
In 2019, I brought my speaking career to a close (or at least a hiatus). My calendar is empty in 2020 other than events that I will run through Gifted Guild.
Speaking of which, Lisa Van Gemert and I ran a series of sold-out Gifted Guild events in 2019, culminating in a two-day get together by Disneyland. We even turned it into a book (back in print very very soon, maybe even when you read this)!
Byrdseed.TV Exploded (In A Good Way)
So why end a successful and growing speaking career? Frankly, I felt like I wasn’t moving the needle as much I could be. Yes, people (generally) liked my sessions or workshops, but I rarely saw evidence that it made an impact in classrooms.
So I decided to take all of the energy that travel required and pour it into my video lesson site, Byrdseed.TV – which I suspected would make a larger impact in classrooms than leading professional development.
It paid off!
- In 2019, I created (I seriously had to triple-check this) 91 new video lessons! It’s really astonishing how much I was able to create once I reduced the number of things I was doing. 2020 will be even better.
- Teachers send me delightful student work all the time. In ten years of leading PD, I got maybe three student samples. Now it’s almost every week. Why? Teachers actually use Byrdseed.TV!
- I did some exploring beyond just video lessons and created slideshows of great writing, randomly generated story starters, and curiosity-provoking “Notice, Wonder” slides.
- Plus I simply love creating lessons way more than I ever enjoyed creating professional development.
Byrdseed.TV’s winter registration window closes on January 24th, 2019.
Here at Byrdseed.com
I did less writing and much more housekeeping at Byrdseed.com this year. Realizing that, with over 500 articles, the real problem was helping people find articles. So I spent a lot of time re-categorizing, combining, and even deleting some weird, old articles. It’s a blast to read through a decade’s worth of posts.
The five, most-read posts at Byrdseed in 2019 were:
- My Depth and Complexity introduction
- Ambiguous Sentences
- Recommended Books In The 900-1000 Lexile Range
- Social & Emotional Needs of Gifted Learners
- Puzzle: Words Within Words
I’ve continued to send out five free weekly links to curious videos, images, and articles over at Puzzlements.co. It’s now year four and this mailing list has continued to surprise me. I love hearing how it has helped teachers to learn more about building curiosity in classrooms.
This is one ongoing project that I have no plans to stop in 2020.
A Theme for 2020
This thought keeps coming back to me as a focus for 2020 (paraphrased from a 2012 quote by Jeff Bezos of Amazon):
Rather than wondering what will change in the next ten years, think about what won’t change in the next ten years.
Bezos notes that, in ten years, Amazon customers will still want things like faster shipping, cheaper prices, and more selection. These were the same problems from ten years ago as well. So he slowly builds towards satisfying those unchanging ideas.
Amazon’s innovation comes not from chasing innovation but pursuing unchanging principles.
So what, in classrooms, are our unchanging principles? What’s the same in 2020 as it was in 2010 or even 1990? What will remain the same in 2030?
I find that, when I think in this way, I avoid the trends, doodads, and acronyms. My focus is on bigger ideas that are centered on student-needs – just as Bezos found with his customers.
I’d be curious:
- What do you think are a few unchanging principles in education? What will we still be working on in 2030?
- Or, if you’ve been around long enough, looking back to 2010, what trend/fad/etc you chasing that now seems silly?
I’ll have more on this in a future post. Still digesting!
Some favorite books that I re-read:
- Good Strategy, Bad Strategy – If you’re in any position of leadership you should read this.
- Shogun – A favorite story of mine set in Japan in 1600.
- Getting Things Done – Always working on my todo list system! This is a classic, but never quite works for me.
Some of my favorite first reads:
- I got into a big Shirley Jackson phase, reading three of her works: Haunting of Hill House, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and Hangsaman. I also started The Sundial, but couldn’t get into it before my loan ended. Maybe next year!
- Only two books have ever scared me and Birdbox was one of them.
- The Machine That Changed The World is about Toyota’s car-making revolution in the 1980s and is surprisingly relevant to teaching.
- Fifty Inventions That Shaped The Modern Economy was fun. Some of the dullest-sounding inventions were the most interesting. Shipping containers!
- I finally read Michael Lewis’s Moneyball. He’s probably one of my favorite authors and is super-interesting on podcasts.
- I found Fluent Forever and it really re-re-kickstarted my study of Japanese (for the fifth time!).
- Caught up on Detective Bosch’s latest adventures. My guiltiest of pleasures!
In September, a friend turned 30 and I revealed that I had just turned 39. She asked for my advice in navigating the decade ahead. Off the top of my head, it was to check in with yourself frequently and make sure you’re making progress. It’s so easy for three years to go by without any progress towards the big goals because those pesky little things keep getting in the way.
That’s one of the joys of having these annual write-ups (the benefit has been so great that I also do private, quarterly ones as well). I get to check in with my past myself. If I’m still setting the same goal year after year, I better get serious about it before I blink and turn another decade older.
I do hope 2019 was good to you and that you have clear plans to make 2020 even better. If I can help you, please feel free to get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org